Second Sunday of Advent (December 4, 2016)

In today’s Gospel we experience John the Baptist urging us to “repent, prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight his paths.” St. Francis de Sales comments on this passage:

“Make straight the paths of the Lord.” Roads that twist and turn too much, only fatigue and mislead travelers. Our life contains many tortuous ways that we must make straight for our Lord’s coming. First, we must correct our mixed intentions and have only one, that of pleasing God by changing our heart. Like the mariner who always keeps his eye on the needle of the compass as he steers his boat, we too must always have our eyes open to penitence, that is, a change of heart.

In changing our hearts, we return to God’s image and likeness in us. In repentance we experience tribulation and sorrow for having offended God’s goodness. We are no longer slaves to our emotions. Our inclinations, feelings, and emotions are now directed toward the love of God and neighbor. We see plainly that it is a most reasonable thing to be repentant for our great faults when we consider attentively the benefits of a virtuous life. All acts of repentance are made for the sake of the beauty, honor, dignity and happiness of our own well being. A change of heart leads to an even disposition.

The perfection of penance is to have a holy love for God that overflows into love of neighbor. The love of God and self-centered love continually struggle within our heart and cause us great travail. True self-love serves God. When divine love reigns in our hearts it tames all other loves. It places our natural emotions and desires under the Divine plan and service. Let us therefore walk with determination before God like John the Baptist. Let us be a voice crying out that we must prepare the way and make straight the path of the Lord, so that receiving Him in this life, we may enjoy Him in the next.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)